"Absolute" implies unqualifiable, as in physics, absolute zero. Eliot seems to be asserting the author as the Absolute creator and judge of a text's meaning while allowing for readers' interpretations so long as the word of the creator is the first, last and only word.
I suppose Eliot could be possessed by messianic delusions of this sort, but he more than any author of his time presents the subject, i.e., the narrator, as contingent, alienated from aspects of himself and confused, and the polyvocality and indeterminacy of the language of some of Eliot's poems, most notably TWL, reflects those states.
Perhaps he was most modern when he was suffering a breakdown and lacked certainty. The language of TWL is multi-valent, signifying multiple referents and readings. I ascribe his assertion that the author or anyone could establish that poem's "absolute meaning" to grandiosity.
Date: Tue, 1 Apr 2008 12:05:26 -0400 > From: [log in to unmask] > Subject: Re: THE LINE ABOUT THE BURGLAR AND THROWING MEAT TO THE DOG > To: [log in to unmask] > > Although you are putting Gish-ian assumptions into Eliot's mouth, nothing > here contradicts Eliot's assertion that a poem has absolute meaning. And > the fact that we can dispute meaning is an early indicator of this truth, > rather than the idea that the text would have to be sufficient. We assume > in the dispute that there is a right answer. If it is not true, why dispute? > > Ken A > > At 11:10 AM 4/1/2008, Nancy Gish wrote: > >Eliot said many things, very often contradictory; any one statement is not > >an absolute Eliot even. > > > >If there were such a thing as absolute meaning in words, there would be no > >need for a Supreme Court or for any kind of religious figure because the > >text would be sufficient. An author may have an intention--though as > >Eliot notes in many cases, even they may not be conscious of it--but it > >can only be put down in words that "slip, slide, will not stay still." > > > >It is not only theorists of most of the 20th and 21st century who > >recognize the slippage of language: it is Eliot over and over. Diana, > >since you read this material, I assume you question the notion that any > >absolute meaning can be simply inscribed by an author who consciously > >knows exactly what it is and makes it total and absolute--contra 4Q and > >all Eliot's comments on the subconscious and/or disease pushing into language. > >Cheers, > >Nancy > > > > >>> Diana Manister <[log in to unmask]> 04/01/08 10:22 AM >>> > > > > > > > >Dear CR: Presumably Eliot felt the author would be the source of that > >"absolute meaning?" Diana > > > >Incidentally, Eliot once explained (to Philip Mairet, 31 October, 1956; > >the collection of Violet Welton) that, even if a poem meant different > >things to different readers, it was still necessary to assert its > >'absolute' meaning. [Peter Ackroyd, T.S. Eliot: A Life, p.80] > > > >CR > > Chokh Raj <[log in to unmask]> wrote: > > > >Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote: > > > >While trying to find the line about the rhythmical grumbling, I chanced on > >another instead--the line about distracting the reader that was queried > >earlier:"The chief use of //the 'meaning' of a poem, in the ordinary > >sense//, may be (for here again I am speaking of some kinds of poetry and > >not all) to satisfy one habit of the reader, to keep his mind diverted and > >quiet, while the poem does its work upon him: much as the imaginary > >burglar is always provided with a bit of nice meat for the house-dog."It > >is in the conclusion to THE USE OF POETRY AND THE USE OF CRITICISM > >(1933;London: Faber and Faber, 1964), 151.//I hope whoever was looking for > >it gets this.// > >Nancy > > > >Of course, those who look for it "in the ordinary sense" get this, and > >this only. > > > >CR > > > > > > > >OMG, Sweet deal for Yahoo! users/friends: Get A Month of Blockbuster Total > >Access, No Cost. W00t > > > > > >OMG, Sweet deal for Yahoo! users/friends: Get A Month of Blockbuster Total > >Access, No Cost. W00t > >_________________________________________________________________ > >Get in touch in an instant. Get Windows Live Messenger now. > >http://www.windowslive.com/messenger/overview.html?ocid=TXT_TAGLM_WL_Refresh_getintouch_042008 > >